Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gangland and Politics

I watch a lot of History Channel's Gangland. I also watch a lot of news. Today, I connected some dots:

How political parties are like gangs

Recruit the needy. Gang members tend to be individuals looking for something to belong to; a family. Politicians, for the most part, are individuals who crave acceptance and approval.

You have to get "beaten in". We call this non-stop barrage of vicious attacks being "vetted by the media". It's a rite of passage. If you survive, your in. If you don't, your out.

Parties stake out territories, just as gangs do. Look at the boundaries of electoral districts. They are designed to favor the incumbents.

Currency transactions are hidden through money laundering. Both gangs and politicians trade in cash and favors and are very careful not to explicitly connect the payment to the deed.

Constantly looking to expand their territory. Being powerful within a single country is not enough. There is a growing "global community" movement, which of course is administered by a level of government above sovereign nations.

Prey on the weak of will. Gangster deal in vices like drugs and prostitution. Politicians deal in vices like government assistance, contracts and subsidies. In both cases, once you become dependent, they own you.

Both gangs and political parties are self-perpetuating and are not dependent on any particular individual for their long-term survival. Police infiltrate gangs with multi-year sting operations, resulting in hundreds of arrests and convictions, and they keep coming back strong. Political parties also have their purges and downfalls, but a new crop of power hungry recruits is always there to take it to a new level.

For the most part, neither gangs nor political parties go directly after the strong of will. Their prey consists of those who are attracted to bright shiny objects; fame, "free" money, drugs, crime, the need to be accepted by a group. Things generally go badly for both when they try to force their world on people who have no interest in it. Political parties have avoided a lot of potential bad blood by directing the cash flow to their organizations through employers. You get paid less, but you don't notice. You just focus on the net take home, and you feel good about the refund check that comes every year because they took a little extra from you each pay period.

Both gangs and political parties prefer to operate in an atmosphere of chaos. There has to be some degree of order, so there will always be someone to rob. But you also want to avoid facing any consequences for your actions. Creating chaos in the political world is simply a matter of expanding "grey areas" and becoming very adept at the art of rationalization and pragmatism. In fact, pragmatism (changing your code of behavior to suit your circumstances) is openly heralded as a virtue among politicians. Actually establishing a core set of beliefs and striving to live by them makes you an "idealogue" which is an insult in the political world. They've sold this mindset to the public at large, and for the most part, we bought it. It's very appealing after all. Rather than feeling bad about your missteps and moments of weakness, you talk yourself into seeing them as virtuous. Others, who do the same, are not going to argue with you, no matter how ridiculous the justification.

So the formula goes something like this: Recruit the needy (emotionally speaking). Create a common bond through trauma. Prey on the weak. Avoid direct confrontation with the strong. Promote ambiguity and chaos and attack any attempt to promote logic and reason as a means of arriving at an objective truth. Distasteful as it is, it seems to be working so far.

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